WELLINGTON — Sometimes a girls basketball game means just a little more.
Wellington’s 36-23 Patriot Athletic Conference loss to Buckeye kept the Dukes winless on the season, but the defeat wasn’t about what happened on the court.
On Wednesday, many of the students found out that Drew Guyer of McCormick Middle School died the night before of unknown causes. It led to a somber day at school, so for the Dukes (0-8, 0-5) to step on the floor and forget for a bit was some needed therapy.
“We did something a little different when we pulled them onto the court instead of near the bench at the start of the game,” Wellington coach Chris Reuterpohler said. “We met in the middle and said, ‘You girls have an opportunity to do what few people have today and that’s to put everything out of your mind. All that stuff will be there when you are done. You have the next hour and a half to go out and do something you love and that’s play basketball.’”
That’s exactly what Wellington did for the first 16 minutes as it forced the Bucks (2-6, 2-3) into a 0-for-8 performance in the first quarter and 3-for-25 outing in the first half. It had Wellington up 14-8 at the break and had the Dukes faithful forgetting for a while.
Karly Rollin came out on fire with two 3-pointers in the first quarter and scored all eight of her points in the first half. She had a game-high three assists and really had Wellington on the move.
As each bucket fell the thought of Guyer was still there, but the thought of winning the first game of the year was, as well.
“It was good for us,” Rollin said. “We kept him in the back of our minds. We wanted to play for him.
“School was rough today. People were quiet, but we all came together for him. It was nice to get away. It got it out of our minds for a bit, but it was still there.”
Unfortunately for the Dukes, the second half was nothing like the first as Wellington managed just one point in the third quarter on a 0-of-14 performance from the field and went a stretch of 10:19 without scoring a basket.
Despite the drought, the Dukes still found themselves in it with the game tied at 15 after three, but that’s when things went from bad to worse as Maggie Calame (seven points) led a charge for Buckeye, which scored eight of the first 10 points in the quarter.
Just like that Wellington went from playing with the lead all game to a six-point deficit in the matter of two minutes.
“I went into the locker room after the game and wrote one word on the board, ‘Momentum,’” Reuterpohler said. “We had all the momentum going into halftime and got up 15-8 to start the third, but then gave them two quick buckets and didn’t execute on defense.
“That swings things the other way and they bank three 3-pointers in a row. Ultimately, it comes down to not knowing how to win yet. We got a lead and played not to lose. We started to rush. We started to scramble a bit when we didn’t need to.”
The Dukes fought back to close it to four with 4:22 remaining on a bucket by Elizabeth Bowman (six points, eight rebounds), but never found enough to get back over the hump and close things out.
Still, Reuterpohler saw some big things from his squad on a day where the last thing on many of the girls’ minds was a win or a loss.
“A lot of the stuff today was tough for the kids, for the teachers, for the faculty,” he said. “It’s never easy to go through it, but the girls wanted to play for Drew’s memory and they fought.
“It didn’t come out the way we wanted it to, but sports is an opportunity to step away from the world and in this case the community and the hurt. To have a tiny bit of therapy for these girls to focus on something different was nice.”
Buckeye 36, Wellington 23
BUCKEYE (36): Alexa Eisenbrown 2-0-4, Sara Dash 3-5-12, Morgan Hama 1-0-2, Kayla Glancy 3-3-11, Maggie Calame 2-2-7, Kaitlyn Hubeny 0-0-0, Nicole Koontz 0-0-0, Courtney Styfurak 0-0-0. Totals 11-10-36.
WELLINGTON (23): Sami White 1-0-2, Karly Rollin 3-0-8, Jasmine White 0-1-1, Elizabeth Bowman 3-0-6, Ala Hardaby 1-0-2, Kayla Sparks 1-0-2, Callie O’Connor 0-0-0, Jenny Stumphauzer 1-0-2, Logan Simmons 0-0-0. Totals 10-1-23.
Buckeye 2 6 7 21 — 36
Wellington 8 6 1 8 — 23
Three-point goals: Buckeye (Glancy 2, Calame, Dash); Wellington (Rollin 2). Field goals: Buckeye 11-43 (26 percent); Wellington 10-49 (20 percent). Free throws: Buckeye 10-19 (53 percent), Wellington 1-6 (17 percent). Rebounds: Buckeye 36, Wellington 39. Turnovers: Buckeye 14, Wellington 18.